Carbondale seeing new faces in directorships
Carbondale’s town government is seeing turnover in a couple director positions from longtime employees going into retirement.
The town council has been talking in recent months about several key staffers set to retire soon, so having a plan to retain their institutional knowledge has been on the trustees’ minds.
Larry Ballenger recently retired as the town’s public works director after 18 years with the town, and his replacement, Kevin Schorzman, has quickly stepped in.
Also, Jeff Jackel, Carbondale’s recreation director, is planning to retire in February after 16 years.
In the next two to four years, Police Chief Gene Schilling may also retire, said Town Manager Jay Harrington. “But both Larry’s and Jeff’s departures we’ve known were coming for a while. So no surprises.”
Schorzman started as the town’s new public works director in early November. A native of northwest Kansas, he got his civil engineering degree from Kansas State University. He then worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation until moving to Minnesota in 2006 to be the city engineer in Farmington.
He stayed put for 10 years until he recently took the job in Carbondale.
Schorzman is no stranger to Colorado or the Roaring Fork Valley. With family in the Fryingpan Valley, for the past several years he’s been visiting for a couple weeks in the springs and autumns.
So he’s had his eye on the area as a good place to someday retire.
In his first few weeks Schorzman said he’s been focused on getting up to speed on Carbondale’s goals and issues and getting to know its residents.
“I have been meeting with staff in the streets and utilities departments to get a feel for things that are happening in each department. I have also attended the Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission meeting to discuss trail safety, the Tree Board meeting, and Town Council meetings to try to get a feel for what’s happening in the community.
“I’ve been learning about several projects and developments that are anticipated to happen in the near future including the Third Street project, the City Market development and work on the town’s Crystal wells.”
The dedication and care for the town by all staffers is truly amazing and should reassure residents and business owners that all staff members are looking out for the long-term best interests of the town, said Schorzman.
Jackel, on the other hand, plans on retiring Feb. 3, a last day that serendipitously overlaps with Carbondale’s Mardi Gras and First Friday celebration.
“After 42 years in government and 16 years with the Town of Carbondale, it’s time to practice what I’ve been preaching, which is that you’re never to old to play,” he said.
He started working for Carbondale in 2001, and since then the town has seen some major recreation projects.
The Carbondale Recreation and Community Center, completed in 2008, was central among them. With that project his department grew from only three employees to six.
Jackel has a long list of large Carbondale projects from his 16 years, including renovation of the rodeo arena and baseball field, developing a dog park and nature park, building new tennis courts, a new high school track, a skating park, a community garden and expanding the town’s tail system, to name only a few.
“When I came here, Carbondale had very little recreation infrastructure, but voters in 1996 had approved a half-penny special recreation sales tax. So when I got here five years later there was over $2 million in the account.”
Jackel said his forte is in grant writing, which was a big reason he got the job. So he began leveraging that $2 million and pursuing GOCO grant money.
Carbondale has been very successful with these types of grants because its projects are community-inspired, he said.
“What I loved the most was the citizens came to me with all these ideas for Carbondale. They were pretty much all grass-roots efforts, which made it easy for me to go after grant funding. Grants want to see projects driven by the community, so I really thank the community and citizenry that set the groundwork and went to the meetings to have their ideas vetted.”
All of these big projects were funded either partially or fully by GOCO or Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District grants.
After he retires, Jackel said he’s going to be busy traveling in a new 20-foot RV and pursuing recreation opportunities. But Carbondale is going to remain his hometown.
Carbondale has already received about 72 applications for his replacement, he said. And the town is shooting to bring someone on board about a week before he leaves so they can have some overlapping time.